Master of Professional Studies in Journalism

Master of Professional Studies in Journalism

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Journalism Students Shape the Future at Hackathon

Nayana Davis with Hackathon Teammate
Student Nayana Davis with hackathon teammate. (Photo credit: Steven King)

Between May 30 and June 1, two students in the Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Journalism program represented Georgetown at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Journalism School Hackathon.

Creating Sustainable Solutions

MPS-Journalism students Nayana Davis and Julie Gilkison participated in the inaugural event on behalf of Georgetown, joining students, faculty, and professionals from 10 universities around the country to help several local news outlets solve their media challenges. Co-produced by PBS MediaShift and UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the hackathon featured a mix of hands-on work sessions, presentations from industry experts, and training workshops. The two-day event focused on innovation and entrepreneurship, teaching participants how they can apply these concepts to create sustainable business models and revenues for today’s news and media outlets.

Divide and Conquer

Participants were split into teams based on their skill sets, with each team consisting of a mix of journalism disciplines—including an editor or producer, a designer, a technical person, and either a business strategist or a faculty facilitator. Each team was presented with a challenge that a local news organization was currently facing and tasked with creating a business solution to address that challenge. Challenges included the following:

  • McClatchy: How might we use high school sports to create tighter bonds within a community?
  • WRAL.com: How might we increase awareness of outside influence on local elections?
  • Raleigh Public Record: How can we provide greater transparency into local government planning decisions and actions?

Teams had 36 hours to develop their solution and work on an accompanying product pitch. At the end of the weekend, each team presented its pitch to a panel of judges—which included local journalists and entrepreneurs—who then selected the winner. Georgetown Journalism student Davis was on the winning team.

“We came up with Voxity, an interactive map that allows residents of a community to select locations where developments are proposed, see what the status of the project is and vote on whether or not they approve of it,” Davis said. “If a group of strangers can accomplish this in one weekend, I’d be excited to see what would come about after a few more similar sessions or if we even had a full week.”

Next-Generation Journalism

As the first of its kind, this year’s event set the stage for future hackathons. MediaShift hopes to ultimately turn this into an annual event that promotes networking, collaboration, and innovation within the journalism community and around the country.

Student Julie Gilkison learns to use Google Glass at Hackathon
Student Julie Gilkison learns to use Google Glass at the hackathon. (Photo credit: Nayana Davis)

“This is the future of journalism: a blend of media and technology,” Gilkison said. “There's no way around it, and from what I saw that weekend, there's an outstanding group of multifaceted journalists that are ready to take it on.”

More Information
View the Storify for the hackathon.

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